From Slavery to Freedom: Slavery Narratives


A slave narrative is defined as a type of memoir that was mainly fashionable during the last half of the 19th century. In this case, the writers of these narratives outlined different themes including ignorance as a tool for slavery; education as a path to freedom, slaveholding as a perversion of Christianity; and family disunities among others. It can be argued that enslavers used slaves’ ignorance and Christianity to hold and maintain slaves.


A slave narrative is a kind of memoirs that was mainly fashionable all through the last half of the 19th century; particularly in the period before the Civil War. Based on this slave narrative more often than not; followed comparable arranged formats. In this case, they frequently began with an account of the slaves’ ancient record; the mistreatments and terrible situations coupled with slavery, and the major characters’ flee to liberty. It should be noted that, a conventional slave narrative often made use of themes including an evidence to genuineness, spiritual and biblical imagery; the consequences of slavery on household, and the learning chances throughout slavery and after achieving liberty.

It can be argued that, the key objective of a slave narrative was to create a story-like piece of script which concerned a white spectator, and promoted the elimination of pressure groups to stop slavery in the U.S. it is further of importance to note that; a slave narrative would frequently explain in bright particulars sights of rape; assassination, family breakages, whipping and hunger particularly among women and children. In such a narrative, there is frequently a rotating point at which the slaves were persuaded in the search for liberty in the North; as the only route of action to evade an absolute and entirety loss of religious wellbeing (Andrews & Gates 2000).

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Based on these ideas, it can be argued that slave narratives utilized different themes which included ignorance as a tool for slavery. In this case as indicated in the Douglass’s narrative, the white slave-owners continued slavery by ensuring their slaves remained uninformed. Based on this, during slavery many people were convinced that slavery was a normal condition of human beings; and that the blacks were innately incompetent in partaking in social civilization and thus should be reserved as laborers for the whites. In this case, the slaves were kept uninformed of fundamental details about themselves like their dates of birth or parenthood.

In this case this imposed unawareness, took from children of their ordinary intellect of individual uniqueness. In this case, slave children were not allowed to gain education as it would have given them a sense of self-reliance and ability. On the other hand, slaves were not in a position to query the rights of the slave-owners for holding slaves; because they were illiterate. At the same time since the slaves couldn’t read and write, their mistreatments could not be known thus the rest of America was not informed about slavery.

It is of importance to note that, the slave owners were able to enslave and maintain slaves through sustaining ignorance among them, in order for the slaves to believe and feel satisfied under slavery (Douglass 2001).

In addition, knowledge as a path to freedom was another theme utilized by slavery narratives. In this case, while the whites maintained men and women as slaves by denying them information and schooling; slaves had to look for these tools in order to pursue their liberty. From the example Douglass; due to his own self-information was the key means by which he was capable of liberating himself, as well as his utmost device to toil for the liberty of all slaves. It can further be argued that, Douglass explained distinctive conduct prototypes of slave owners to illustrate the destructive consequences of slavery.

From this it can be seen that, many slaveholder men lured slaves to infidelity and rape; hence having children with their female slaves. It is of importance to note that, this theme encouraged the slaves to search for education and knowledge so that they can be better positioned to understand their rights.

In this case, through education slaves would be able to strategize on how they would attain their liberty through anti-slavery movements. It can be said that, when slaves got educated they were able to realize their rights and at the same time question the rights of the slave owners; for holding slaves. Based on this knowledge, the slaves were able to liberate themselves. From this it can be argued that, not unless the slaves strived to acquire information and skills; they would not be able to react against slavery and slave owners.

In this case the knowledge gained by slaves after liberation could be used to hoist further movements against slavery in America. It can also be argued from the statements of Douglass in his narratives that, the only escape from slavery was through gaining education. Based on this, slaves were forced to believe that they were not worth working in the civil society; because of their lack of education (Douglass 2001).

Further, slaveholding as a perversion of Christianity was utilized as a theme in slave narratives. In this case from Douglass’ description of Christianity, slave-owners’ type of Christianity was not in confirmation of their inborn kindness; but purely an insincere indication that dished up to boost their self-righteous cruelty. From this, to indicate this dissimilarity one can describe the fundamental disagreement between the generous as well as nonviolent doctrines of Christianity, and the brutal and wicked actions of the slave owners.

Based on the chapter of Thomas Auld, he experienced a transformation from an unkind slaveholder to a crueler one in the Douglass narrative. In this case, slave owners’ unkindness amplified after becoming religious as the case of Auld in the Douglass narrative; whose holiness raised his self-assurance in his ‘God-given right’ to keep and abuse slaves. In addition, the Southern churches were corrupt where for instance Auld’s church received profits from his funds made by means of slaves. Based on this, churches during the period of slavery were complicit in the human unkindness of slavery (Andrews & Gates 2000).

Additionally, the theme of family breakages was well utilized in slave narratives; where slavery damaged the continuation of any union among the slaves. In this case when the slaves were removed from their fellow Africans, varied tribes were mixed together on the ships uncovering their identities. It can further be argued that, slaves were not allowed to be unified in order to reduce their chances of rebelling against their masters. On the other hand, the slave masters used to rape slave women and girl children which resulted to family breakages. It can further be seen from the slave narratives that; slaves were not at all times taken from the same family to serve a common master; hence could serve different slave owners which promoted family disunities (Franklin & Moss Jr. 2000).


To wind up, slavery narratives through the different themes outlined how slave owners were able to hold and maintain slaves. In this case, slaves’ ignorance was a fundamental tool used to sustain slavery. It can further be said that, it was only through education that slaves were able to realize their rights thus started rebelling against slavery in America. In this case they realized that slave owners’ type of Christianity; only helped them to mistreat slaves but not liberate them.

Reference lists

Andrews, William, & Gates, Henry, 1st edition. Slave Narratives. Now York: Library of America, 2000.

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass, An American slave Written By Himself. Yale: Yale University Press, 2001.

Franklin, John, & Moss Jr, Alfred. From Slavery to Freedom: A History Of African Americans, 8th sub edition. New York: Knopf Publishers, 2000.